Energy secretary wary of net-zero movement ‘crushing’ corporate ambitions

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho has asserted that policy certainty is not what businesses “need the most” from the UK Government, arguing that “living with uncertainty” is better for businesses as it stimulates market competition.

Energy secretary wary of net-zero movement ‘crushing’ corporate ambitions

Coutinho argued that the “net zero leviathan" could crush the UK's brilliant enterprise economy.  

Today (30 April), Energy Security Secretary Coutinho delivered a speech at the Innovation Zero sustainability conference in London stating that the Government does not want to take a path where a “net zero leviathan” crushes the nation’s “brilliant enterprise economy”.

The speech was interrupted several times by activists, protesting against the Government’s continued support for fossil fuel projects.

The UK is committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, a recent study revealed that the Government will need to send strong signals to the private sector now if it is to deliver the most economically beneficial pathway to net-zero, which would unlock a 6.4% GDP boost by 2050.

Coutinho stated that it is the Government’s responsibility to create “the right market conditions for capital to flow”, and expressed pride in the statistics that the UK has attracted £300bn in low-carbon private investment.

She said: “Since I’ve come in post since September, I’ve overseen £24bn which has come into the clean energy sector alone.”

However, recent research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) revealed that the green goods and services sector contributes only 3.9% to the UK’s GDP, while its EU counterparts lead the way, warning that the nation is failing to seize the economic advantages of a global shift towards a net-zero carbon future due to the lack of a green industrial strategy.

Instead of establishing a long-term strategy, the UK Government has pushed back on its key net-zero policies including pushing back the targets for electric vehicles (EVs) deployment, building efficiency standards and framework, as well as heat pump adoption, citing cost-of-living crisis as the reason.

Coutinho added: “You will have seen that when it comes to the cost of living for people – whether it’s their cars or their boilers – we’ve chosen to give people more time.

“And that’s because I don’t want to force products on British consumers, I want you to create products that they choose.”

Earlier this year, businesses and trade bodies urged the Government to maintain its heat pump deployment targets and measures to make boiler manufacturers transition to cleaner heating products. Despite the plea, the Government delayed its clean heat market mechanism (CHMM) until April next year at the earliest.

The UK Government’s climate advisors have warned that these changes could make the UK’s transition to net-zero heat more risky and expensive in the 2030s and beyond.

‘Britain accounts for 1% of global emissions’

Coutinho emphasised while the UK has made strides to tackle emissions, the nation merely accounts for 1% of global emissions, and so, the “bigger contribution to tackling climate change will come from innovation.”

It bears noting that the 1% only covers the UK’s territorial emissions, which includes the emissions within its borders. However, the UK’s true carbon footprint was nearly twice that in 2016.

Additionally, even at just 1% for territorial emissions, the UK is still amongst the top emitting countries, ranking number 15 in 2017 and 2018.

According to the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), nearly a third of global emissions comes from countries whose territorial emissions are each 1% or less of the global total, underscoring the urgency for the UK to play its part in the global transition to a low carbon world.

Coutinho concluded by expressing optimism that the UK will “play its part in an extraordinary global challenge”; however, the stark reality remains that a majority of the UK public do not believe that the Government will deliver policies to transition to net-zero by 2050.

Comments (4)

  1. Mike Mann says:

    A government of inexperienced fools leading the blind when they could be enlightening attitudes and providing knowledge. Waffle disguised as policy and not a plan in sight.

  2. Mike Roberts says:

    I was at the event. Both Coutinho and Jeremy Hunt went down like a lead balloon. Regular interventions by protesters and at the end the audience response was muted, verging on the apathetic. Constant twisting of the truth from both-Jeremy Hunt even had the cheek to reference the support of the Climate Change Committee when the outgoing head, Chris Stark, has been brutally candid about Government performance. Meaningless words from meaningless politicians as they eke out their sad and lonely final days in power.

  3. Richard Phillips says:

    But Mike, they are politicians, not scientists and engineers!
    Just look how they gave away our electricity generating industry. We should have nuclear energy for all our base requirements, but there is little lovely immediate money for the private purse in that. That, is for the long view.

  4. Rob Heap says:

    To say that policy certainty is not what businesses need most and that living with uncertainty is better for business because it stimulates competition, demonstrates how out of touch our government is. Unsurprising that much needed investment is not being attracted to the UK.

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